Creating Our Own Lives

Creating Our Own Lives

College Students with Intellectual Disability

Edited by Michael Gill and Beth Myers

Young adults with intellectual disability tell the story of their own experience of higher education

296 Pages, 6 x 9 in

  • Paperback
  • 9781517909727
  • Published: October 10, 2023
  • eBook
  • 9781452964065
  • Published: October 10, 2023
  • Hardcover
  • 9781517909710
  • Published: October 10, 2023


Creating Our Own Lives

College Students with Intellectual Disability

Edited by Michael Gill and Beth Myers

ISBN: 9781517909727

Publication date: October 10th, 2023

296 Pages

24 black and white illustrations

8 x 5

"I like Creating Our Own Lives because people with disabilities talked about being in college and shared their stories in their own words. And they really shared their experiences, not just about how everything is great, but about how it is to be in college and what Syracuse is like for people with disabilities. Beth Myers and Michael Gill also shared, and that made the book great to read."—Tia Nelis, Director of Policy and Advocacy, TASH


Young adults with intellectual disability tell the story of their own experience of higher education


How do students with intellectual disability experience higher education? Creating Our Own Lives addresses this question through the eyes of participants themselves. In relating their experiences and aspirations, these student perspectives mount a powerful challenge to assumptions that intellectual disability is best met with protection or segregation.


Taken together, the essays expose and contradict the inherently ableist claim that individuals with intellectual disability cannot be reliable storytellers. Instead, their deeply informative stories serve as a corrective narrative. The first of the four sections, “Laying the Foundation: Why Everyone Belongs in College,” focuses on belonging and inclusion; the second, “Opening Up Possibilities: Overcoming Doubt and Uncertainty,” conveys the optimism of this generation of advocates through stories of personal hardship, hopeful perseverance, and triumph over adversity; the third, “Inclusion as Action: Diversifying Student Experiences,” supports the understanding of diverse student experiences in inclusive higher education; and the fourth, “Supporting Growth: Peer Mentoring and Advice,” offers guidance to those reimagining and creating educational spaces.


Students with disabilities belong in higher education. Not only does this book serve as an important record of students enrolled in inclusive higher education programs, it is also an unprecedented resource, packed with information and inspiration both for parents seeking opportunities for their children and for individuals with intellectual disability who aspire to attend college.


Contributors: Makayla Adkins, Olivia Baist, Brandon Baldwin, George Barham, Marquavious Barnes, Katie Bartlett, Steven Brief, De'Onte Brown, Meghan Brozaitis, Mary Bryant, Gracie Carrol, Taylor Cathey, Maia Chamberlain, Antonio E. Contreras, Kim Dean, Elizabeth Droessler, Katie Ducett, Keiron Dyck, Rachel Gomez, Deriq Graves, Micah Gray, Maggie Guillaume, Cleo Hamilton, Nathan Heald, Joshua R. Hourigan, Hannah Lenae Humes, Courtney Jorgensen, Eilish Kelderman, Kailin Kelderman, Kenneth Kelty, Kaelan Knowles, Karlee Lambert, Kate Lisotta, Rachel Mast, Elise McDaniel, Emma Miller, Jake Miller, Lydia Newnum, Brenna Mantz Nielsen, Carly O’Connell, Nadia Osbey, Stirling Peebles, Breyan Pettaway, Amanda Pilkenton, True Rafferty, Taylor Ruppe, Lawrence Sapp, Tyler Shore, Brianna Silva, Alex Smith, Elliott Smith, Phillandra Smith, Payton Storms, Allen Thomas, Kylie Walter, Stephen Wanser, Sayid Webb, Breana Whittlesey, Luke Wilcox, Adam Wolfond.

Michael Gill is associate professor of disability studies at Syracuse University. He is author of Allergic Intimacies: Food, Disability, Desire, and Risk and Already Doing It: Intellectual Disability and Sexual Agency (Minnesota, 2015).


Beth Myers is Lawrence B. Taishoff Professor of Inclusive Education at Syracuse University. She is executive editor of the Journal of Inclusive Postsecondary Education and author of Autobiography on the Spectrum: Disrupting the Autism Narrative.


Introduction: Recognizing Student Voice in Inclusive Higher Education

Michael Gill and Beth Myers

Part I. Laying the Foundation: Why Everyone Belongs in College

1. I Want to Go to College

Antonio E. Contreras

2. I Got In

Taylor Ruppe

3. Adventures in Postsecondary Education

Stirling Peebles

4. A Language to Open

Adam Wolfond

5. “The Wanderer” and “This Is What I Sing”

Steven Brief

6. My History of the Excel Program

Alex Smith

7. Taking the Llama for a Walk and Other Things That Helped Us

Olivia Baist and Kylie Walter

Part II. Opening Up Possibilities: Overcoming Doubt and Uncertainty

8. Being Independent Has Risks: How to Recover When Something Terrible Happens

Kailin Kelderman, Eilish Kelderman, and Mary Bryant

9. Spartan Kid: Journeys

Brandon Baldwin

10. Best Experiences at IDEAL

De’Onte Brown, Deriq Graves, Nadia Osbey, Breyan Pettaway, and Sayid Webb

11. Two Poems

Carly O’Connell

12. Goal(s) in Common

Hannah Lenae Humes

13. I Did What They Said I Couldn’t

Allen Thomas

14. Climbing Higher and “From Mission Impossible to Mission Possible”

Courtney Jorgensen

15. Inclusive College on Zoom? My Inclusive Higher Education 2020 Experience

Stephen Wanser, Kate Lisotta, and Kim Dean

16. Inclusive College for All and How My Perception of My History Prof Changed

Keiron Dyck

17. Qua’s GT Excel Life and “Never Give Up”

Marquavious Barnes

18. Photo Essays and Selections from Student Leadership Conference 2019

Breana Whittlesey, Kaelan Knowles, Elise McDaniel, Kenneth Kelty, Katie Bartlett, and Rachel Mast

Part III. Inclusion as Action: Diversifying Student Experiences

19. Hi, I’m Jake Miller

Jake Miller and Katie Ducett

20. “BGWYN” and “Confidence with Curves”

Taylor Cathey

21. Inclusive College Education

Micah Gray, with Karlee Lambert and Lydia Newnum

22. My UC Perspective

Joshua R. Hourigan

23. Phoenix Nation as in Spirit

Cleo Hamilton

24. My Excel Story

George Barham

25. #CreatingMyOwnLife

Payton Storms

26. Inclusive College Education

Makayla Adkins

27. My Story about Aggies Elevated at Utah State University

Brenna Mantz Nielsen

28. Questions and Answers

Lawrence Sapp

29. College Memories but Ready for What’s Next

Amanda Pilkenton

30. Full Year of College

Luke Wilcox

31. My Favorite Memories in College

Elizabeth Droessler

Part IV. Supporting Growth: Peer Mentoring and Support

32. Communicating Successfully in College

Maia Chamberlain

33. True Rafferty Interviewed

True Rafferty, with Nathan Heald

34. College Program Experience

Gracie Carroll

35. Teaching, Assisting, Reflecting: Our Experience Working Together

Phillandra Smith and Meghan Brozaitis

36. My Georgia Tech Excel Story

Maggie Guillaume

37. Emma’s Journey

Emma Miller

38. Come Read about My Awesome Journeys through Life

Brianna Silva

39. My Social Experience throughout Georgia Tech

Rachel Gomez

40. The Importance of Goals

Tyler Shore

41. Support and Encouragement for the Ones Who Seek It

Elliott Smith

Coda: Why This Collection?

Beth Myers and Michael Gill